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Dwarfism – Types, Causes, and More Information

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Dwarfism is a prevalent thing around the world. In some places, it is more common amongst particular population or demographic than others.

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While dwarfism is considered as a condition by some people, some others see it as very normal. In this article, we will be answering many questions on dwarfism and telling you all you need to know about people with dwarfism. But first, let us take a look at what dwarfism is.

Different organizations or bodies define dwarfism using different yardsticks or criteria. For the advocacy group known as Little People Of America, dwarfism is defined as a condition that causes an adult height that is below 4 foot and 10 inches.

Medically, a person can only be considered a dwarf when they deal with the condition that makes them short. However, the larger society may consider a person to have dwarfism based on just their stature.

There are many different causes of dwarfism, and several of these causes may generate other health issues like osteoarthritis.

Quick facts on dwarfism

  • Dozens of health conditions can cause dwarfism
  • Dwarfism makes a person very short in stature
  • Most people who have dwarfism live healthy lives and do things that taller people do
  • Diagnosis of dwarfism can only be made after a child is born
  • Dwarf parents can give birth to an average height child

 Types and Causes of dwarfism

Some of the conditions that lead to dwarfism are medical problems that disrupt the production of growth hormones in the body. Metabolic disorders or malnourishment can also be responsible for dwarfism.

Skeletal dysplasias are a condition that causes a person’s bones to grow abnormally and can result in dwarfism or small stature. This growth, which is considered to be abnormal, can also cause uneven growth that makes a person’s body shape and size look out of proportion.

Typically, the condition known as skeletal dysplasia is a generic one, and most people who have this condition have parents who are of average height or normal stature.

There are three prevalent types of skeletal dysplasias, and they are achondroplasia, diastrophic dysplasia, and spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital.

Achondroplasia

Early in a person’s childhood, a large number of the cartilage the person is born with, develops into harder bones. In the condition called Achondroplasia, the process doesn’t take place successfully.

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Achondroplasia is a condition that specifically affects the legs and arms. Achondroplasia  is a genetic disorder that is present at birth. The symptoms of this condition include:

  • A large forehead
  • A normal-sized torso
  • Very short arms and legs that may be difficult to move

Some people who have Achondroplasia have to deal with bone issues like scoliosis, suffer from narrowing of the spine known as spinal stenosis, and may have difficulty breathing.

A very rare form of achondroplasia happens when an individual inherits two copies of a mutated gene that leads to achondroplasia.

This may lead to a poorly developed rib cage, and very short bones, Many people who have this condition are either stillborn, or pass away in infancy because they are unable to breathe.

Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital

Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital is a genetic mutation that leads to a short torso, short legs, and short arms.

The spine, legs, and arms of individuals with this condition are short because they do not grow as expected. This makes them quite short, but they have typical-sized hands, feet, and head.

Asides a short stature, people who have spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital may suffer from some health conditions, including:

  • Foot deformities
  • Spine and hip issues
  • Joint diseases
  • Cleft palate

Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital. May also change the shape of a person’s face, causing it to appear flat.

Diastrophic dysplasia

Diastrophic dysplasia is the outcome of a gene mutation. It affects the development of cartilage and bone, leading to very short legs, arms, and overall short stature.

People dealing with diastrophic dysplasia, commonly have a condition called hitchhiker’s thumb (this changes the shape of their thumb), and spine deformities.

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People who have diastrophic dysplasia usually have joint pain and mobility problems while they are young. Some children who deal with this condition end up dying from breathing difficulties.

Other types of dwarfism

Some different cases of dwarfism may be as a result of the following:

  • Insufficient levels of some specific hormones, most notably human growth hormones
  • Organ failure that undermines the system’s ability to metabolize nutrients or produce hormones
  • Lack of sufficient food or malnourishment, leading to growth problems

All of these are secondary causes of dwarfism, meaning that because they are not genetic, they are possibly reversible with early detection and quick treatment.

How is dwarfism diagnosed

The most popular forms of dwarfism, which are known to be caused by genetic abnormalities of the cartilage and skeleton, may be detected using genetic testing when a fetus is still developing.

Most doctors have no reason to perform this kind of tests except they have reasons to believe that a fetus may be at risk of dwarfism, or when dwarfism runs in the family.

Because most people who have dwarfism are born of parents with average height, it is difficult to run tests to from guesses. Thus, detection is left until after the child is born.

Skeletal dysplasias are the most common form of dwarfism and can be diagnosed easily immediately a child is born. Genetic testing, x-rays, and physical examinations are usually enough to detect dwarfism after childbirth.

For less common forms of dwarfism, they usually appear later in life and may be more challenging to diagnose, mostly if a child experiences no other symptoms except a short stature.

Blood testing to measure the levels of HGH, to access the health of organs, and a full medical history will reveal the cause.

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Treatment and management of dwarfism

Some hormonal and metabolic causes of dwarfism may be reversible. For example, an injection with HGH, can be helpful to people with a growth hormone deficiency, and help them grow to standard height.

However, the most common causes of dwarfism are not treatable or reversible. Instead, the available treatments are focused on managing symptoms, and they include:

  • Removing the tonsils or adenoids to make it easier for people to breathe
  • Surgery to fix abnormalities in the spinal cord and bones
  • Spinal composition surgery
  • Lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and exercise
  • Draining the fluid from the brain using a tube known as a shunt

Individuals with many forms of dwarfism are usually vulnerable to obesity. Additional weight gain can increase their risk of heart conditions.

Living with dwarfism

People who have dwarfism may require some help with some related medical issues like osteoarthritis. Nevertheless, people who are not so tall or even short can do thing tall people do and live very healthy lives.

Many people who are living with dwarfism usually say that the most challenging part of being a dwarf is the stigma that comes with the condition. The stigma often leads to discrimination, bullying, and the use of offensive words like a midget.

Because individuals who have dwarfism need special meds, and most of them also need regular consultation with a team of medical practitioners. However, with the right medical attention, people with dwarfism can live long and normal lives.

Dwarfism doesn’t have to be viewed as a disability or challenge. If you know more about dwarfism or would like to ask questions, please leave a comment below.

Dwarfism
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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.
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